FIFA World Cup Is a Kick on iPad
If watching the World Cup on TV this month just isn't enough to satisfy your soccer yearnings, EA Sports has released FIFA World Cup for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Passes, 1-2 passes, skill moves and even sliding tackles are all here, but sadly no air attacks. Personalization options include creating your own avatar and your own soundtrack.
With the FIFA World Cup a week away, the timing of EA Sports couldn't be more impeccable. The entertainment giant has just released its latest version of its game based on the tournament for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, and it's great fun for fans of "The Beautiful Game."
Although created for all three Apple portable platforms, the game's graphics on the iPad are excellent, not the fuzzy low-res variety found with many iPhone apps when they're displayed in full-screen view on the tablet.
Game play is very realistic. On offense, players can dribble, pass, shoot and perform "skill" moves. You can even perform 1-2 passes, where you pass to a teammate and he immediately passes back to you. But, as in the real game, you must be careful as you approach your opponent's goal lest you pass to a mate who's in an offside position.
On defense, you can perform both standing and sliding tackles on an opponent with the ball, but if you slide too hard into him, you can expect to be "booked" by the referee.
One omission from the game is the air attack. That should hurt teams that depend on their noggins rather than their feet for goals.
Immersive Sound Effects
The sound effects -- music, roaring crowd and play by play announcer -- add an immersive element to play. The sound the ball makes when it hits the back of the net is particularly satisfying.
Another engaging touch is the way a player's name appears on the screen as he comes into contact with the ball. It not only gives the animated footballers a personal flavor, but its good way to familiarize yourself with the players in the tournament.
Given the degree of realism in the game, it should be no surprise that it takes a bit of effort to master. However, the software has a good tutorial mode and a solid help component.
In game mode, the pitch is displayed along with players from two teams. Player motion is controlled by a virtual touchpad surrounded by a ring that appears on the left side of the display.
A player moves in the direction you drag the touchpad. His speed is determined by his proximity to the ring. The closer to the touchpad gets to ring, the faster the player runs.
The player controlled by the touchpad has a red arrow over his head. As he moves down the field, his teammates will appear. A blue arrow over a teammate means you can kick a short pass to him; an orange arrow, you can send a long pass his way.
At the bottom of the screen is an animated thumbnail of a soccer field so you can get a bird's eye view of where you are on the pitch.
Penalty and Free Kicks
On the right side of the screen are buttons for passing, shooting and performing skill moves. Tapping the pass button performs a short pass; holding the button performs a long one. A double tap performs a 1-2 combination.
When taking a shot, the longer you press the shoot button, the more power you place behind your drive -- and the more likely you are to send the ball into the spectators rather than the net. Double tapping shoot will perform a chip shot, a good tool when you're close to the net and the keeper's off his line.
Penalty and free kicks are also awarded in the game. With a penalty kick, you drag a ball to the area in the goal mouth that you want to take the shot. The faster you drag the ball to the target area, the more power your graphic player will put behind the shot. If you're in goal during a penalty kick, you can determine which way you want to dive to block a shot by dragging a pair of hands along the goal mouth.
For free kicks, you select an area for the kick, then drag a ball in the direction you want to kick it. The faster you drag, the more power your on-screen player will have behind the shot.
When on defense, buttons appear for tackling and slide tackling opponents. Tapping tackle changes the defender you're controlling with the touchpad. resting your finger on that button performs a standing tackle. A tap of the slide button sends a player swooping to the ground to poke the ball away from an opponent.
During a game you can review the statistics of the contest -- shots on goal, corners, bookings, fouls, time of possession and pass completion.
FIFA World Cup can be customized in a variety of ways through its settings menus. You can add your own music from iTunes, for instance, as well as change the language for menus, set the length of a half and pick from four skill levels.
Once you master the basics of the game you can further refine it by creating an avatar of yourself playing for your favorite team. Your skills will increase as you gain "experience points."
For soccer fans who can't make it to South Africa for the world's biggest party next month, EA Sports FIFA World Cup for the iPad ($4.99) is a diverting facsimile for the real thing. What's more, it will help take the edge off the inevitable withdrawal symptoms that set in once the tournament is over.